The Hartford Whalers were a professional ice hockey team based for most of its existence in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.. The club played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972–79 and in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1979–97. In 1997, the Whalers franchise moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where they became the Carolina Hurricanes. In 1999 they moved to Raleigh, North Carolina upon the completion of their new arena, then known as RBC Center and now PNC Arena.
The team joined the WHA in its inaugural season in 1972. Originally based in Boston, Massachusetts, they were known as the New England Whalersthroughout their time in the league. They moved to Hartford in 1974, and joined the NHL in the NHL–WHA merger of 1979.
The Whalers were never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, yet they attracted a decent fan base over the years. They recorded three winning seasons in their eighteen years in the NHL, made the playoffs eight times, and won one playoff series, earning the nickname "Forever .500s". Whenever they did make the playoffs, they faced the near-certainty of having to get past the Boston Bruins or Montreal Canadiens to make it to the conference finals. The team developed a heated rivalry with the Bruins based two hours northeast of Hartford, because of the fact that they used to play in the same building. These games usually attracted the Whalers' biggest crowds, as many Bruins fans followed their team to Hartford. The Whalers achieved all-time record of 37–69–12 against the Bruins.
The Whalers were hampered by off-the-ice factors. Hartford was the smallest American market in the league, and was located on the traditional dividing line between the home territories for Boston and New York teams. This limited the team's marketability. Additionally, for most of the Whalers' tenure as an NHL team, the Hartford Civic Center was one of the smallest arenas in the league, with seating for 15,635 for hockey. The team only averaged over 14,000 twice in their 15 years at theHartford Civic Center. They averaged only 13,867 from 1980 to 1997.